In a new resolution, the UN General Assembly has declared the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal.
The move comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a loan deal with Ukraine worth $14-18 billion.
The US Congress also passed legislation on Thursday backing a $1 billion loan guarantee for Ukraine.
Tensions are high between Russia and the West after pro-Russian troops annexed Ukraine’s southern peninsula.
The West has widely condemned the move, with President Barack Obama warning on Wednesday of “deeper” EU and US sanctions against Russia if it carried out further incursions in Ukraine.
UN General Assembly has declared the Moscow-backed referendum that led to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as illegal
One hundred countries voted in favor of approving a UN General Assembly resolution declaring the Crimean referendum on March 16 illegal and affirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
Eleven nations voted against, with 58 abstentions.
“This support has come from all corners of the world which shows that this (is) not only a regional matter but a global one,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters after the vote.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, said “the fact that almost half” of the UN General Assembly members had not supported the resolution was “a very encouraging trend and I think this trend will become stronger and stronger”.
Given that the resolution was non-binding, the vote was largely symbolic.
But Ukraine hopes the resolution will act as a deterrent and dissuade Moscow from making further incursions into its territory.
Barack Obama said the IMF announcement, which would unlock a further $10 billion in loans for Ukraine, was a “major step forward” to help stabilize the country’s economy and meet the long-term needs of its people.
The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea.
The moves follow Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, in which officials say 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia.
The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played a key role in the referendum, which Kiev, the US and EU deem illegal.
Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February.
Moscow says the troops are pro-Russian self-defense forces and not under its direct control.
The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea
President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood “ready to impose further sanctions” depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.
If Moscow continued to intervene in Ukraine, Barack Obama warned, it would “achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world”.
The EU published a list of sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The list includes the acting prime minister of Crimea, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, three senior Russian commanders and several senior Russian parliamentary officials.
Selection of officials targeted:
Dmitry Rogozin – Russian deputy PM (US)
Valentina Matviyenko – head of Russia’s upper house (US)
Sergei Aksyonov – acting PM of Crimea (US and EU)
Vladimir Konstantinov – speaker of Crimean parliament (US and EU)
Viktor Yanukovych – former Ukrainian president (US)
Andrei Klishas – member of Russia’s upper house (US and EU)
Leonid Slutsky – head of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) parliamentary committee in Russia (US and EU)
Sergei Zheleznyak – deputy speaker of Russia’s state Duma (EU)
Alexsandr Vitko – commander of Black Sea Fleet (EU) [youtube HRY6OyI5F0k 650] [youtube Gteq8Nq-J18 650]
Crimea referendum showed support for a split from Ukraine with election officials saying that 96.6% of voters backed joining Russia.
The government in Kiev described the vote as a “circus performance” and said it would not recognize the result.
The EU and US say the referendum was illegal, but Russia says it was consistent with international law.
President Barack Obama has warned Moscow that Washington is also ready to impose “costs” over its actions in Ukraine.
Crimea PM Sergei Aksyonov celebrated referendum results
As polls closed on Sunday night, the White House said the international community “will not recognize the results of a poll administered under threats of violence”, describing Russia’s actions as “dangerous and destabilizing”.
The new authorities in Kiev say Russian troops moved in to Crimea after Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted following months of street protests.
Crimean leaders are expected to formally apply to the Kremlin on Monday to join Russia.
The Russian parliament had been expected to wait until Friday to begin debating the relevant legislation. It is now believed the process of absorbing Crimea could take place under existing laws.